Staring into an LCD screen for hours while hacking open-source code ranks pretty low on the human intimacy scale. If leading members of the Ubuntu community have their way, however, the process of contributing to Ubuntu is set to become more "personal." Here's their plan, and how it fits into the bigger picture.

In a recent blog post, Ubuntu contributor and vocal community leader Joco Bacon outlined an effort to graph the contributions of developers who participate in the Ubuntu Sponsorship Process. The result, illustrated in the graphic below, makes it easy to quantify and visualize the work being put into the operating system by different individuals.

Graph example

As Bacon explains, he and fellow Ubuntu developer Daniel Holbach (not to be confused with the radical Enlightenment atheist Baron d'Holbach) hope that a system like this will help foster a more personal experience for programmers who work on Ubuntu, by gaining a more concrete sense of how their efforts fit into the project as a whole. At the same time, the endeavor will help team leaders identify top contributors while also keeping better track of development trends.

The Broader Context

On its own, the tool developed by Bacon and Holbach is neat, but it's less than earth-shattering. Placed within the context of other recent efforts to encourage third-party contributions to Ubuntu, however, its significance becomes clearer.

The ongoing Ubuntu Manual project is one facet of the broader campaign to promote Ubuntu development, while Canonical's recent creation of a position for a "Developer Relations Advocate" represents a concrete commitment on the part of the company to engaging more independent contributions to the operating system. The portal at http://developer.ubuntu.com, which remains under construction, also caters to Ubuntu contributors.

Taken together, all of these small efforts underline the centrality of community contributions to Ubuntu. And those in turn are important because they demonstrate that, while part of Ubuntu is heavily tied to Canonical's commercial endeavors and is increasingly business-oriented, the operating system still retains its ties to the traditional open-source ecosystem, where work by volunteers is at least as important to many projects as that of paid, in-house programmers.

This isn't to say that commercial development can't be "personal" as well. But projects like the graphs produced by Bacon and Holbach make clear that personal connections within the Ubuntu developer community, and across its different strata, remain a continuing focus of Ubuntu as it continues to straddle the line between community and commercial Linux distributions.

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